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University of Minnesota Extension

Learn about your land using the Web Soil Survey

A farmer holds a handful of soil with vegetable roots.

Some say that soil is our life support system. Among its many ecosystem services, it provides a medium for growing our food and other plants, captures and stores large amounts of carbon, and it filters and purifies our water. If you are interested in growing any type of plant, knowing something about your soil will help that plant survive and thrive.

Web Soil Survey (WSS), operated by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), is a web-based application that provides access to soil data and information for making management decisions. Data is available for more than 95 percent of U.S. counties. 

How to use WSS

  1. Find the general location of the area by typing in an address, latitude and longitude, section/township/range or other information. From there, you can zoom in or out to change the view area. 
  2. Define your Area of Interest (AOI) which creates boundaries for the specific location you are interested in learning more about. Once you have defined it, you can provide a name for your AOI.
  3. View or print detailed descriptions of the soils in your AOI through the Soil Map tab. For each soil type, you can view the acres found within your AOI. You can learn more about each soil type (e.g., slope, elevation, frost-free days, depth to the water table, available water supply) by clicking on its name.
  4. Access additional soil characteristics for your AOI through the Soil Data Explorer tab. This allows you to determine the suitability of the soil for a particular use such as building site development, land management and recreational development.
    • The land management tab provides several useful interpretations for forestry such as harvest equipment operability, potential for seedling mortality, suitability for hand planting, suitability for mechanical site preparation and planting, and windthrow hazard.
  5. Use the Shopping Cart tab to print out a custom report for your AOI. This information can also be saved as a PDF for referencing at a later time.

Visit Web Soil Survey to help you make more informed land purchase decisions or better use property you already own.

Charlie Blinn, forestry professor and Extension specialist

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